When you happen to pass by a newly-fenced vacant lot in barangay San Roque, you may be surprised to learn that on it once stood one of Virac’s biggest house in the 1900s.
Two weeks ago, the lot’s new US-based owner began the demolition of the two-foot thick limestone walls, all that remained of the grand two-storey building built around 1898 by Don Valentin Aguilar Fra
It was in that house that Don Valentin, who became Virac’s “alcalde” from 1908 to 1909, raised his family with wife Juana Surtida Amata, daughter of former town executive Joaquin Amata who was mayor from 1887 to 1888 and then in 1895.
The couple had one child, their “unica hija” Josefa “Pepay” Francisco, who would become the island’s first Carnival Queen.
It was most likely the local queen’s beauty that attracted a Notary Public from Malinao, Albay, Victoriao Caudilla Alcala, to court and win her heart.
From their union were born six children: Fredeswindo, Aurora A. Tablizo, Maria A. Sumalde, Juan, Filotea A. Clark, and Teresita A. Hidalgo.
On June 8, 1938, the President of the Philippine Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, visited Virac as part of his campaign for the country’s independence from the United States of America.
And it was in the Francisco house that he stayed as an honored guest after speaking before then Assemblyman Jose O. Vera, provincial officials and constituents at the Virac town plaza
Those still alive at the time remember the house as the place where the first piano lessons and recitals in the island took place.
By tradition, the house was inherited by the youngest son, Engr. Juan F. Alcala, but since he raised his family outside the province, he sold the property to his Naga City-based youngest sister, Teresita A. Hidalgo, in the 1970s.
By then, the house had deteriorated after it was battered by typhoon Sening’s 280-kph winds in the morning of October 13, 1970. Only the thick walls, the stairway and timber posts remained of the original structure.
In the 1980s, roofing was built over the surviving ground floor and, in turns, became Raul Basinio’s Catanduanes Battery Shop, the Ruins Resto Bar (the first nightspot in town to play jazz music) and the worship venue of Pastor Ador Efondo’s fledging Bible Baptist Church at the time he began his Christian Peanut Butter business that still exists today.
For more than two decades, the roofed ruins was occupied by Rolando Isuga, who made it his home and the front a small carinderia, before super typhoon Rolly arrived on Nov. 1, 2020 to finish the demolition job left behind by typhoon Sening 50 years earlier.
All that is left now are memories of life in the big house and the surviving heirs of those associated with the families who lived there.
Incidentally, Joaquin Amata, the former mayor whose daughter Juana married Don Valentin, is the son of Padre Juan de Jesus Arcilla, the great great grandfather of Bishop Manolo delos Santos who now presides as parish priest of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral just a hundred meters away from the now vacant lot.
The lot is also part of the same block just across the former Immaculate Conception Academy building that are belong to descendants of Padre Juan.
What remains a legacy of Joaquin is that street, stretching from the Virac Pilot Elementary School in San Roque to the boulevard in Salvacion, named after him.
(Photos and historical information provided by Fredeswindo Alcala Jr., great grandson of Don Valentin and Juana Francisco)